Coffeeshop Blues

This post finds me feeling rather verklempt.  

The coffee shop where I write nearly every day–where I wrote the first halting words of TASTE ME in a spiral notebook, with a pen in one hand and Deb Dixon’s “Goal, Motivation and Conflict” in the other–went out of business earlier this week, yet one more casualty of these tough economic times.  

I feel like donning black for a year, like a mourning Regency heroine.  

The Rubies, and regular readers of this blog, know how important this place was to me. I write first thing in the morning, seven days a week, and the coffee shop played an important role in my writing routine. I’d set my alarm clock to coincide with its business hours, and most mornings mine was the first car in the parking lot. I sat at “my” table, selected for its optimal feng shui—against the wall, near the windows, not too close to other tables, near an electrical outlet, and well away from the entrance. After a short conversation with baristas Bev or Karen, they’d give me my drink—a bottomless mug of mild brew, with cream—I’d slap on my headset, turn on my iPod, fire up my laptop and get to work. It’s been my near-daily routine for a number of years, and now I have to develop a new one–which is a sorry-ass, tiny little first world problem compared to my dear friends’ sudden lack of employment.    

The role that coffee shops play in writers’ lives cannot be overstated. For the price of a beverage, a writer gets:

  •  Office space
  • A productive place to work
  • A place to meet with plotting or critique partners
  • Internet access
  • A place to do readings or book signings
  • Company and community

Do you have a favorite coffee shop? What role does the coffee shop play in your creative process, other than keeping you caffeinated? Tell us about it!  

Let’s sing the praises of coffee shops, where writers always have a home.

Tamara Hogan’s debut urban fantasy romance, TASTE ME, was released earlier this year by Sourcebooks Casablanca. Underbelly Chronicles Book Two, CHASE ME, will be published in June, 2012.


38 responses to “Coffeeshop Blues”

  1. Vivi Andrews says:

    My favorite places to write involve bottomless diet coke rather than bottomless coffee, but I know the feeling. Something about taking my laptop to public sharpens my focus.

    Sorry to hear about your lost coffeeshop, Tammy. I hope you find a new writing haven (and that your barristas find a new home as well).

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      I can’t remember which TV show it was – Buffy? South Park? – where one of the characters slagged on their city as being a “one Starbucks town.” I live in a zero Starbucks town, but fortunately there are two independently-owned coffee shops here that I can write at, and I’m sitting in the one I think will become my new writing place right now. They open a half hour later than the place that closed, which has caused some ripples in my daily routine, but a lot of the regulars from the place that closed seem to have migrated here as well. So many familiar, friendly faces!

  2. Oh, I hear you, Ruby Sis. What a shame. While I’ve written at various coffee shops, none became a staple for me, but in high school, my BFF and I used to write for hours everyday after school at the local Tastee Freez, and man those memories are still so vivid. I loved every minute of it and felt quite the same way you do now when it went out of business.

    There is something about the smell of coffee and writing that just gets my brain in create mode. I love coffee shops. Love the atmosphere. I have a story set around a coffee shop I swear I’m going to write someday.

    I’ll drink a cup to you and your lost love. May you find a new haunt soon.

  3. I’ve recently gotten into the habit, too! Mine’s a huge Barnes & Noble cafe, not particularly swanky or computer-friendly (dire lack of receptacles means only four people can plug in at any given time) but I like it nonetheless. The tables are the right size and height. They’re spaced far enough apart so I don’t have to feel like I’m at a cafeteria. The baristas are super-friendly. It’s a pretty serious place, with lots of people working hard all day long. AKA, not a meat market. And it’s inspiring to be around all those books!

    Downsides? Riff-raff! Ill-managed toddlers! Loud-talkers! Stinky old men who seem to have nowhere else to go, and nothing in particular to do but drink coffee all day!

    Also, there isn’t much variety in food options. And sometimes I like a little swank. There’s a Starbucks a few doors down that has all the swank and variety (and receptacles) I could hope for, but the tables are these tiny round wobbly things. Also, they turn their music up too high. I don’t like having to turn my headphones up so high that I can’t hear if someone is trying to get my attention. When I go there, I feel like I’m cheating on Barnes and Noble.

    I bought a B&N membership yesterday. I’m pretty committed at this point.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      I’ve had a B&N membership for a couple of years now, since my critique parter and I started meeting there regularly. Between books, coffee and nibbles, the membership is definitely worth it to me.

      I know what you mean about the downsides. I’m hyper-sensitive to noise, and shrieking kids and cell phone talkers get on my last freaking nerve. I use Bose noise-reduction headphones with my iPod. In addition to reducing the noise as advertised, the big electronic earmuffs pretty much shout, “Do not disturb.”

      • I have some of those headphones. I keep forgetting to bring them! Between Spotify and Pandora, I’m set for music.

        Right now, there is a foursome of older women playing scrabble or something. No biggie, except every so often (more often than you’d think) they shuffle the plastic tiles. Loudly. For a long time.

        I do enjoy being out among people. It’s pretty easy for me to go several days without leaving the house, and that’s a bit frightening.

  4. I’m sorry, Tammy. I can’t write anywhere there are distractions (my “Mom gene” is too highly developed; I hear and see everything!), so can’t truly empathize about the space, but I can understand the importance or routine. I hope you find a new writing home soon. In the meantime, I’m sending cyber hugs.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks, m’dear. One cool thing about the new place is that it has separate men’s and women’s restrooms instead of one shared one. Here, the toilet seat is always down!

  5. Elisa Beatty says:

    Oh, Tammy, that’s awful!!!

    Writing routines are so important, and to having your writing “home” snatched away just sucks!

    I hope you find another hidey-hole soon, with much caffeine and fabulous tables!

    As for me, I have to write in the midst of chaos–kids, pets, piles of laundry, cartoons on TV–because I have no other options: we’re heaped together in a teeny tiny house and the time it would take to drive to a good coffeehouse would eat up my pathetic scraps of writing time. Luckily, I can usually tune out the world once I get going. The hard part is coming out of it again so I remember to feed the kids…

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks, Elisa! Things are going well at the new haunt. I feel so fortunate that I have other local options to choose from, because the nearest Starbucks or Caribou is a good 20 miles away.

      I envy people who can tune out the world and write in the chaos. I’m convinced that parents develop all sorts of useful skills that we childfree folk don’t.

  6. I’m not a coffee drinker, so coffee shops hold little allure for me. I’m not even much of a soda drinker anymore. Like Elisa, I’ve learned to write amongst the chaos of family and home, so I try to make the most of the time I have while the kids are in school. I can tune out just about anything. LOL.

    Except, my laptop died a couple weeks ago, so for now I’m forced to sit in my son’s room and use his ancient desktop, which isn’t nearly as comfy or productive, but I’m trying to make it work. 🙂

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Changes in routine throw me for a major loop. I’m very process oriented – I develop technical processes (development methodolgies) for a living – so it usually works for me to mentally frame the unexpected change in routine as a new process to devise or adapt.

      I seem to be able to fool myself pretty darned well. 😉

  7. Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

    I never write in public (shudder) except at work while I dodge a gauntlet of car salesmen who want to know what the heck I’m writing. I have a home office that is often invaded by spouse, child, dog, tortoise and now a crazed kitten. But I do get up early. Not always to write, but to take care of business. I do know routine is everything and hate when mine gets thrown a monkey wrench. But maybe now you can enjoy and extra half hour of sleep.

  8. I’m blessed with my mornings free to write in a quiet house. Not that I actually WRITE (*&^&%$#) some days…

    So, lately I’ve been thinking about carting myself and my laptop to the local coffee shop and setting up a base there. I figure it would reduce my reasons NOT to write. No dogs, no phones, no oh-I-should-take-out-the-garbage excuses that end up being a total time-suck.

    Thanks for solidifying this idea — I think I’m going to try it on Monday.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      At the coffeeshop, the only possible distraction, I find, is the internet. I usually keep the wireless capability disabled on my laptop so if I’m tempted to log on, it takes four or five clicks to do so…usually time enough to talk myself out of it!

  9. Amen and Hallelujah, Tammy! I’ll sing the praises of coffee shops. I wasn’t a coffee drinker until about ten years ago… about the same time I started writing. Hmmm….

    Anyway, Arlene (a regular Ruby blog commentor) and I frequently meet up at one of two coffee shops in our area. We alternate which one, and I’ve found, like others who have commented, that it does tend to sharpen my focus. I’m so much more focused!

    I do write at home, and can write amid chaos, but there’s something about mixing up the routine (I try to write outside of the house a couple times a week) that works for me and my creative process.

    Hugs on your recent loss, Tammy. I hope you find a new “office” soon, and get back into a routine.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      I started drinking coffee my freshman year of college – more as something to do other than EAT while talking to friends in the cafeteria than to caffeinate, I think. But I just love it. And between coffee and gymnastics, I didn’t gain any weight in college. 😉

  10. Anne Barton says:

    Aw, sorry about your coffee shop, Tammy. I think we writers are such creatures of habit. Maybe a little superstitious too. 🙂

    For years I went to this great little family-owned coffee shop near my house. Not to write, just to grab coffee. (They also had the best donuts.) Anyway, even after the original owners sold, I kept going for the coffee, till one morning around 7 a.m., I walked into the shop and the two women behind the counter were screaming and throwing punches at each other. Yikes! Now I get my coffee at the McD’s drive-thru, lol.

    I hope your new shop works ends up working out and that the your barista friends find good jobs too.

  11. Tamara Hogan says:

    Thanks, Anne. So far so good on the new coffee shop! Tomorrow morning I’ll have a chance to catch its weekend vibe!

  12. Julie Brannagh says:

    Tamara, I hope the new place becomes a haven for you, too, and those who worked for the place that closed catch on somewhere else – quickly.

    I meet my critique group at a place called Cupcake Royale in Bellevue, WA. They have coffee, but the focus is mainly some incredible cupcakes. It’s quiet. There’s plenty of plug-ins and tables to welcome writers (and the occasional four-month-old with his mommy). They feed the soul, as well as the cupcake craving. I also love their locally-sourced, organic when possible, friendly and welcoming business.

    There’s nothing quite like the coffee shop to stimulate creativity, or recharge the batteries with the writing friends.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Julie, Cupcake Royale sounds fabulous! (And dangerous.) 😉 Oh dear, I don’t think I’d be able to resist the treats.

      Electrical outlet to writer ratio is an important metric. I’ve started carrying a power strip in my writing bag to maximize my chances!

  13. How sad about your favourite coffee shop closing down, Tammy!

    I’m not a coffee drinker, so thank gawd for chocolate cafes. I live in a cafe-dense area, so I can pretty much go to a different place every day. My favourite one is a bakery/cafe with cute little outdoor tables topped with swishy white tablecloths and flowers, plus there are beautiful pastries and great service. I don’t write there, but it’s lovely to sit out there, read and people-watch for an hour or two.

  14. Gabrielle says:

    I don’t have a favorite coffee shop at the moment (but I know what it’s like to lose one–and I mourn with you!) so I’ve set my laptop up in my little dining room, with the coffee pot nearby. It has the added advantage of no intenret–though I should find some kind of mellow CD to play, to complete that café feeling 🙂

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Gabrielle, it sounds like you have the ambiance down pat! Sometimes I feel a little guilty for the gas I burn driving to the coffeeshop – about 10 miles round trip every day – but I try to run other errands “in town” while I’m there.

  15. There is actually a Starbucks in one of the malls here in Sao Paulo. I go there periodically with my husband for our “American” splurge. But traffic is so horrendous where I live that trying to drive there on a daily basis would make me very cranky. Instead, I make some homemade French Vanilla creamer (since you can’t buy it here) and brew a pot of coffee and sit in the little tiled courtyard just off my dining room. It’s not exactly a coffee shop, but I can pretend. And being outside (when the weather is cooperative) puts me in a good mood.

    So glad you’ve found a replacement coffee shop! It’s so hard to give up those old favorites!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Hi Tina – How fascinating that Sao Paulo quaifies as a “one Starbucks town!” 😉 I’d love it if you were to write a blog post about your life in Brazil – or your recipe for homemade french vanilla creamer.

      Your tiled courtyard sounds divine.

  16. Danniele says:

    Love, love, love to write at a coffee shop! I put on real headphones, not earbuds, and play instrumental music to drown out the people around me. And I agree about Starbucks — the music there is too loud! I can edit there, but not write.

    For those of you who don’t have a coffee shop nearby, look into the locally owned restaurants! Before I had to get a day job this year, my sister and I would meet at a little local eatery/bakery that served breakfast and lunch. The hours were perfect, since we did it while the kids were at school, and they served some great food! Sometimes we ate a late breakfast, sometimes an early lunch, but they didn’t mind us hanging out all day and got to know us pretty well.

    Just throwing another option out there. 🙂

  17. Addison Fox says:


    I’m so sorry you lost your coffee house – what a sad thing. That said, I hope the new place/new change of scenery fires up your creativity!!


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